The track and field action in the Commonwealth Games, starting at the Nehru Stadium on Wednesday, could have been of the highest order had a series of last-minute pull-outs not taken away some of the charm.
Yet, the championship will be of a level not witnessed hitherto in the country, though we might have seen better-rated individual stars in the past when Delhi hosted Permit meets.
The quality of the contests, rather than just the star value, should be in focus over the next seven days, with the marathons scheduled for the final day of the Games on October 14.
No Jamaican superstars
Understandably, there is great disappointment in not being able to see World and Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt.
It is not just Bolt who is missing in the Jamaican contingent; all the top sprinters in either section have not made it here. Thus we will miss Olympic sprint champions Shelly-Ann Fraser and Veronica Campbell-Brown, former 100m World record holder Asafa Powell, and a whole lot of established sprinters including Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Yohan Blake.
In the absence of the Jamaican thunderbolts, two lesser known Jamaicans, Lerone Clarke (PB 9.99s) and Oshane Bailey (10.11s) could be contenders against England's Mark Lewis-Francis (10.04s), who, many consider, has not realised his true potential, and a few other lesser-known sprinters.
Quite shockingly, Jamaica has not entered its top 40 sprinters of the season in the women's section. Nigeria's Olympic long jump bronze medallist Blessing Okagbare (season best 11.00s in London in August) could have been the strongest contender in 100m and long jump, but she has also withdrawn.
The middle and long distance events were dominated by Kenya at the last Games in Melbourne, by winning six gold medals.
Though without some of its top-ranked stars this time, the Kenyan athletics squad looks the strongest in the fray.
Kenya has entered former World champion in the 5000m, Eliud Kipchoge. Reigning World champion and defending CWG champion Ezekiel Kemboi is in the men's 3000m steeplechase and with Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto also expected to be in the field, the contest should produce high-class fare.
In the women's section, the Kenyan challenge would be headed by Olympic 1500m champion Nancy Langat, with World champion the 5000m, Vivian Cheruiyot also joining to make it a formidable-looking Kenyan team.
The presence of Olympic and World champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker of Australia, 2007 World high jump champion Donald Thomas of the Bahamas and World and Olympic champion woman shot putter Valeri Vili of New Zealand, should provide stature to the championships.
With no mechanism to find out provisional entries, forgetting confirmed entries, no effort on the part of the OC to inform the media, no information on the website, the promised start-lists, at least for the opening day's events, still looking an impossibility late Tuesday afternoon, and entry to venues looking more exhausting than mountain-climbing, one had to work in the dark.
The CGF, which has vigorously protected its right to enforce “secrecy” about entries since it wanted delegates meetings to complete whatever exercise that were being gone through before disclosing the “secrets” to the media, had not bothered to release anything till late Tuesday.
Should there be medals for sheer inefficiency and insensitiveness in understanding the needs of the media, they should be first pinned on the CGF bosses before the lesser medals are awarded to Kalmadi & Co.
Keywords: Commonwealth Games